20 July 2007

I See Your Hoof, Now Waddle Away

Reform Movement's Chazer Fissel

By: Editorial Board Wednesday, June 27, 2007
Several weeks ago we noted how odd it was for the president of the Union for Reform Judaism to cite as his authority, in the course of an attack on Israel’s Chief Rabbinate, one of the 20th century’s leading Torah sages, Rav Yosef Dov Halevi Soloveitchik.

The purported fan of the Rav, Rabbi Eric Yoffie, has published a number of other articles in the Jerusalem Post as part of a series labeled “Reform Reflections.” In “The Settlers Distort Judaism,” he engaged in a rather sophomoric discussion of a Mishna and a pasuk and concluded:

The Eternal One gave us the Land so that we might create there a holy community – a task that we fulfill by observing the mitzvoth, both ritual and ethical, that God has imparted to us and called upon us to obey…. Obviously, there are differences in our Jewish world about what constitutes proper observance of these mitzvot. But this much is clear: none of this has anything to do with borders or settlements. Let the settlers not misuse our tradition for their own purposes.

Another article by Rabbi Yoffie, titled “Put Religion Into Israel’s Schools,” offered the following:

Let the State of Israel create a core curriculum for all its schools. Its purpose would be to tie all Jews in the Jewish state to each other and to the Jewish people throughout the world, and to strengthen the central symbols and democratic values of the State of Israel. It would be pluralistic and tolerant, but openly and assertively Jewish and rooted in Jewish religious tradition.

In yet another article, “The Honor of Torah Study,” the Reform leader presumed to capture the place of Torah study in Judaism and airily concluded that,

At a time when the majority of Jews are blessed to live in a sovereign and democratic Jewish state, and that state is obligated to impose a crushing burden of taxation and military service on her citizens, the honor of Torah can only be preserved if those who study it most intensely help to ease this burden by sharing it fully.

Most recently, in still another article, this one called “Fakers and Pretenders,” Rabbi Yoffie wrote in part:

When a Jew tells you that the Messiah will soon arrive, run for cover…. Today, as in days past, those who find romance in the language of the messianic future are embarking on a perilous path. The Jewish enterprise is devoted to the observance of Torah and fulfilling God’s will; messianic claims, on the other hand, are inevitably used to justify ethical lapses, to promote organizational and personal interest, and to glorify military victories or explain military defeats. Modern-day messianic practitioners – including the religious settlement leaders and the messianic elements of Chabad – have been no exception to this pattern. The result is to undermine rather than advance devotion to Torah.

He went on to quote – selectively and out of context – from the Rambam, who, he wrote, “understood that messianism belongs at the peripheries of Jewish concern.” (Could it be that he simply overlooked the Rambam’s admonition, in his Thirteen Principles of Faith, that one has to expect the Messiah every day?) He then added:

But this should be understood: the Messiah will come when God determines that the time is right, and once God makes that determination, we will know. In the meantime all those who attribute messianic qualities to themselves or to others or who express certainty about the imminence of the Messiah’s coming are fakers and pretenders. All those who claim knowledge of God’s will in these matters claim what they cannot possibly know and are guilty of monumental theological arrogance….

“Theological arrogance” indeed. Frankly, the old Yiddish phrase “chazer fissel” comes to mind. Literally it means “pig’s foot” but has come to refer to a hypocrite. Kosher mammals are defined as those that have cloven hooves and chew their cud. A pig has cloven hooves but does not chew its cud; hence it is not a kosher animal. Outwardly, though, a pig gives the erroneous impression that he is of the kosher variety. Additionally, when lying on the ground a pig will typically thrust its hooves forward as if to highlight this physical attribute. Therefore, a hypocrite is described as someone who proffers his chazer fissel.

Actually, the notion, if not its Yiddish expression, goes well back in Jewish history. Esau was reputed in the Midrash to have tried misleading his father Isaac by posing esoteric religious questions designed to suggest his – Esau’s – serious interest in Jewish law (though he was in fact living a thoroughly dissolute life). In addition, Esau tried to create the impression that he was following in his father’s footsteps by marrying at the age of forty, as had Isaac. Yet his choices were wholly unacceptable. Rashi cites the Midrash and compares Esau to a pig, explaining, “when a pig lies down, it juts its hooves out as if to say, ‘Look I am kosher.’”

Plainly, after more than a century and a half of rejecting halacha as a factor in Jewish life, the Reform movement now senses the need to somehow identify with the widespread resurgence of Torah learning. What’s more, after a similar period of denigrating the notion of a Jewish state, the Reform movement has come to recognize the value of harnessing Israel’s institutions as a way of securing legitimacy for Reform’s revisionist version of Judaism.

But they are fooling no one. As another prominent Reform leader recently acknowledged, “Far more American Jews privately express their Jewish identity through social idealism or involvement in social justice concerns than any other expression of Jewish identity – including support for Israel or Jewish rituals.”

What makes Eric Yoffie so reprehensible and dangerous is the dishonesty in his approach. For as long as most can remember, Reformism did not run from it's collective belief's. Halacha was not relevant, the Torah was a guide for moral development but not a binding Divinely written law, Berlin or Jerusalem were the same, intermarriage was okay because the Jews have no chelek, etc. What better way to anger HaShem, if I may be so bold, then to try to re-write Torah, Biblical commandments and Hilcho's L'Moshe MiSinai?

But Yoffie, since his taking over the helm has changed the rules. He frequently talks about Torah and Jewish morality. He has launched efforts to educate Reformist members in Jewish matters and rightly called his Reformist generation (paraphrased) the most ignorant in history. He has called on Reformist congregations to work on "converting" the non-Jewish spouses (say 40% to 45% of the membership). He has described Torah as the binding fabric of the Jewish world and has, at least on the surface supported Israel.

But what is the meaning of all this when he maintains all the same narishkeit that comes with Reformism? Reform congregations are liberal lap dogs of the democrat party and wrap into their definition of "tikkun olam" more of the "Tikkun, Lerner style" and less of the "Olam" of the collective Jewish soul. At first, I considered trying to define all of this but then decided, let Yoffie speak for himself with a few interspersed comments (in green).

We favor a two-state solution...
but we have said that whatever settlement is reached will require significant territorial compromise by Israel....

{Give the arabians whatever they want because Israel is a land like any other. The settlers, of course are the greatest obstacle to peace. Heck, all of Israel is an obstacle to peace, right?}

We were vocal supporters of the withdrawal from Gaza and we have condemned extremist acts by settlers in unequivocal terms...

{Damn those Jews and their multi million dollar agricultural industry and their now destroyed green houses formerly built over the sand dunes of Gaza. They are, er were, you know the greatest obstacle to peace.}

We have signed letters, passed resolutions, and issued press releases on all of these issues, and have done so for many years; our positions are a matter of public record...
{and you can shut up now too}

I would also argue that the approach of the Orthodox world to conversion -- which has become, essentially, to do everything possible to discourage it -- has been a disaster for Israel and the Jewish world, and that this approach is not mandated by halakha
{yes it is} nor consistent with Orthodox practice throughout much of Jewish history.

Reform Judaism is proud of its embrace of modernity;
{In Yoffie's eyes he and his followers are the only one's who "embrace modernity". Torah is modernity. it is the averos of the world which are old fashioned.} its dynamism and creativity; {make it up as you go along} its inclusiveness; {whether you are Jewish or not, you can have an aliya} its commitment to tikkun olam; {Reformist code language for the DNC platform}its commitment to a Judaism that is always ethical;{one that marries two Bobs, converts the other spouse for convenience with no expectation except that they will pay dues to the congregation, advocate the legality of abortion, advocate arab rights in Israel, and as we saw above and most importantly blame the settlers} its belief in the absolute equality of men and women;{especially the homosexual ones as "rahbies"} and its conception of Judaism as an evolving and developing tradition. {we don't need any angry white guys from Europe telling
us what to do. we are modern, remember?}

Furthermore, while it embraces the idea of mitzvot (commandments from God), it rejects the idea of halakhah (a comprehensive and binding system of Jewish law). Obviously, any religious system that is not halakhic cannot be Orthodox in any way.
{What a twisted and warped mind it requires to divorce mitzvos and halacha? Obviously any religious system without standards of observance is no religion.}

At the same time, we are also proud that as we have grown, we have not been afraid to move in new directions. In the past, we rejected whole elements of our tradition. For example, we tended to accept what we saw as ethical and reject much of what we saw as ritual. More recently, we have come to understand that the distinction between ethical and ritual is arbitrary and spurious and that there is beauty and power in many aspects of ritual that we previously had put aside. More generally, our openness leads us to say that no part of Jewish tradition should be automatically excluded from Reform practice and belief, at least not without careful study of our history and our sources.
{basically, Reformism can't make up it's mind and from day to day, and reinterprets major tenets of it's religious belief as the wind blows. This is curiously similar to the psychological condition known as

Nonetheless, as liberal and modern as we are, we assert the clear distinctions that exist between Jewish values and the values of the world. We assert the compelling power of our ethical teachings.
{What ethical teachings? you have gutted them all!}We assert the possibility of religious commandment. And we need to affirm our values more emphatically than we have in the past. {because you are increasingly being ignored}Those who will listen, will listen; those who will not, will not. But we cannot afford to be unclear about our religious message. {the business of Reformism is business.}

"I disagree with Chabad about practically everything," Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie, leader of the liberal Reform Jewish movement, said in a speech last year. "But I envy the selflessness of their young men and women who fan out across the world to serve Jewish communities in distress. We must foster among our members the same sense of mission and spirit of service to the Jewish people."

for Eric Yoffie's latest bit of incomprehensible drivel from his Jpost.com blog see The Good and Bad of Chabad

We are deeply concerned about the growing threat to a woman's right to choose. Reform Jews are not pro-abortion; our tradition permits abortion in some cases and prohibits it in others. But Reform Jews are emphatically pro-choice;
{so we do not really care what the "Jewish" opinion is since Reformism trumps whatever Judaism has to say. This is another example of trophy case religion} we see women as moral agents who must be free to consult their religious principles and their conscience and then decide for themselves. {But the men who are fleeing reform congregations are not moral agents. Maybe there are more former Reformist men who see the contradiction between religious principle and the no-priniciple brought on by conscious thougth bound to nothing but self-interest}.

And what is Judaism? It is not only a religion. It is a complex, many-splendored thing wherein peoplehood, faith, and ethics interact. But Torah is its central pillar. Without Torah, the whole structure collapses.
{Yoffie knows the truth but isn't about to jeopardize a cushy job with a good contract by saying that 'you can't have it both ways'. The Torah is the central pillar and those other things determined by it. They are not at odds, on a continuim or balancing each other on a scale.}

We are not Jewish because we like bagels or borscht belt humor. It is Jewish learning and religious practice that make us Jews. To be sure, ethnicity and culture, gastronomy and nostalgia, language and biology-these are all aspects of our Jewish identity. But they are the superstructure, while the foundation that drives it all is Torah, covenant, and faith.
More than a thousand years ago, Saadyah Gaon said it plainly, Israel is a people only by virtue of its Torah.
{again, Yoffie selectively quoting a Gadol in one area that has meaning for him but not willing to listen to Saadyah's instruction in halacha or prayer. Anyhow, it is a welcome comment by Yoffie eventhough he doesn't really believe it.}

But the primary reason I raise this issue has nothing to do with American pressure or public opinion. It has to do with the threat that settlements pose to Israel 's sovereign survival.
{here we go again. It is the evil settlers not the Arabs who are greatest threat to peace}

In 1980, there were 5,000 settlers in the West Bank and Gaza . In 1993, there were 115,000 settlers, and today there are 230,000 settlers. If settlement growth continues, in a very short time the Jewish and Palestinian populations will be so intertwined that separation will be impossible.
{Mazel Tov, he gets it, maybe}

Fully aware of this, some Palestinian leaders have begun to promote a one-state solution as the only way to end the conflict. "Settlements are expanding," they say, "and a state of our own is no longer feasible. So let there be a single state from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River in which every person, Arab and Jew, will have one vote and equal rights." They make this proposal knowing that this territory will soon have an Arab majority and that a single state will mean the end of Israel.
{Yoffie, where have you been the last 50 years? The arabian barbarians have always called for one state from the river to the sea. it is time for the Jews to have the same commitment}

Rabbi Eric Yoffie, President, Union for Reform Judaism
“Gay and lesbian children are the children of God just as heterosexual children are …We understand those who believe that the Bible opposes gay marriage, even though we read that text in a very different way. But we cannot understand why any two people who make a lifelong commitment to each other should be denied legal guarantees that protect them and their children and benefit the broader society.”
{because two Bob's can marry in a Torah world. Whatever is the law of the land or whatever it might become has no bearing on an Halachic world.}

But I too am a rabbi, of course, and I was present at Greensboro. And I would like you to know that, voting as an individual, I cast my ballot in favor the resolution. I did so because of my belief that our gay and lesbian children, relatives, and friends are in great need of spiritual support; that the Torah's prohibition of homosexuality can reasonably be understood as a general condemnation of ancient cultic practice; that loving, permanent homosexual relationships, once difficult to conceive, are now recognized as an indisputable reality; and that in these relationships, whether or not we see them as "marriages" it is surely true that God and holiness can be present.
{this is such a farce it does not deserve comment except to say again and again that Torah is the modern way which brought morality and virtue to the world. Yoffie's way as portrayed in his comments represents the perversity of the world prior to Torah, prior to the revelation of Avraham}

Controlling guns is not only a political matter, it is a solemn religious obligation. {if Yoffie could point to some place in Tanach where "gun control" is mentioned, his argument may be more compelling} Our gun-flooded society has turned weapons into idols, and the worship of idols must be recognized for what it is-blasphemy. {and Reformism has turned homosexuality into mainstream, turned individual's choices into hederim, and temples into shuls. what IS the greater blasphemy?} And the only appropriate religious response to blasphemy is sustained moral outrage.
We are ready for a knock-down, drag-out, no-holds-barred battle against the NRA, which is the real criminals' lobby in this country, and which is drenched in the blood of murdered children.
{I read a clever comparison on Free Republic related to this subject. "Guns don't kill people any more than pencils write mis-spellings". For Yoffie to argue that the NRA has blood on its hands, he will have to agree that Reformism has caused the greatest destruction of Jewry to date. Why? The actions of Reformism, allowing intermarriage, making phony conversions and providing a way out for Jews instead of bringing them close to Torah and teaching them the truth, has repressed to a great degree the Jewish population in the US. How many of reformist members are Halachically Jewish? Who really knows.}

This realization has led to another serious error by some community leaders. Since the only other place for help to come from is the government, they have endorsed the campaign for government-financed vouchers for private education. And in so doing, they have compromised the most fundamental values of the broader Jewish community.
{the Torah and Gemara speak often about government funded education for everyone in America. Seriously, Rabbi Shmuel Bloom of the Agudah Israel -USA, in an article in Mishpacha magazine last month, claims as one of Agudah's greatest achievements the securing of $150-$200 million government funded support to the yeshivas. Rabbi Bloom points out that this funding occurs despite separation of church and state and has been held up in court. Yoffie is just jealous because in the entire US there are only a tiny handful of reformist schools (22 according to
this article)which describes this great growth, all 22, as "proliferating" while the yeshiva day school movement attendance and the number of schools is growing constantly due to increasing demand. (see The Association of Modern Orthodox Day Schools And Yeshiva High Schools for a small glimpse of some of these schools.)In general, there are neighborhoods in Brooklyn with more than 22 Orthodox schools.}

Support for vouchers is rarely justified in such parochial terms. Supporters claim that their goal is to help the poor and improve public education by creating competition. But this is disingenuous. You don't assist public schools by taking their funding and putting it elsewhere. You don't help the inner cities by creating a program that will mostly benefit the middle-class and the wealthy.
{This is pure democrat demogoguery. You do help the schools by making them compete for students by offering the families the best education possible. The money follows the reputation. The market works, eric. But what does this have to do with Torah?} The people who engineer voucher proposals are almost always those with no interest in maintaining the public schools and whose real aim to is secure funding for their own schools. Protestant groups want money for their private academies, and the Roman Catholic hierarchy wants subsidies for its parochial school system. We can now add to the list Jewish organizations that have supported vouchers, or remained silent, hoping to secure funding for yeshivas and Jewish day schools. {Those orthodox hate the poor little minority, under-privileged xtian children. Shame on them}

I am embarrassed and ashamed when I hear such arguments coming from Jews. The public schools were the ladder that we used to climb from poverty to affluence in American life, and how dare we deny it to others.
{How much is spent per student today compared to "back then"?} And I tremble for our nation when I hear the constant drumbeat of attack on our public school system. The public schools take the poor and the handicapped, the abused and the foster children, the Christian and the Muslim, the Roman Catholic and the Jew. They do more of God's work in a day than most institutions do in a lifetime. {such as?} .If our public schools are broken, then let's fix them, but let's not destroy them in the name of a highfalutin principle that is often nothing more than naked self-interest dressed up as caring. {cynical cynical cynical. naked self-interest? like calling non-jews Jews and marrying guys to each other because it feels good? This is naked self interest. Demanding accountability and result from the public school system is not naked self interest but logic and leadership}

Others have steped up to the plate to criticize Yoffie for his quickness to judge.

Republicans blast Yoffie comments
WASHINGTON (JTA) – The Republican Jewish Coalition blasted a Reform movement leader for comparing religious right groups to Hitler in their treatment of gays and lesbians. “We cannot forget that when Hitler came to power in 1933, one of the first things that he did was ban gay organizations,” Rabbi Eric Yoffie, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, said Nov. 19. Matt Brooks, RJC’s executive director, called the remarks “absolutely outrageous, unacceptable and offensive. To have the respected head of a major Jewish organization equate other people of faith with Hitler and the Nazis should not be tolerated in this society.” URJ spokeswoman Emily Grotta said Yoffie was making a historical reference. “He did not say the religious right was akin to Hitler,” she said. Grotta meant "Well, not exactly, I mean sort of but it's not the same as saying it out right, you know what I mean, like he believes what he says but maybe it wasn't interpreted the way he meant it".

see also Jewish Tribune here

In a major policy address here last week, Rabbi Eric Yoffie, president of the newly renamed Union for Reform Judaism, criticized President Bush’s tax policies and the Republican push to curb abortion rights. But the Reform leader reserved his harshest remarks for Jewish settlers in Gaza and the West Bank.
{what is worse than a tax cut or anti-abortion activity? Evil Settlers!!!!}

{Last but not least, we have Yoffie signing on to a global climate change, (I.E. the sky is falling) "plea for action" letter. Since we began way back at the top with HaRav (Soloveitchik), it might be an appropriate time to point out that it is a well known fact that HaRav was strongly opposed to Jews participating in ecumenical gatherings. While HaRav permitted discussions in the public world of humanitarian and cultural endeavors the wording below leaves a reader wondering "where is the Jewish content? Where is the emuna, the covenant?}

“Many of us share a deep conviction that global climate change presents an unprecedented threat to the
integrity of life on Earth and a challenge to universal values that bind us as human beings.” From a
May 2004 letter entitled, “Earth’s Climate Embraces Us All: A Plea from Religion and Science for Action
on Global Climate Change”, organized by the National Religious Partnership for the Environment,
and signed by the following religious leaders (in addition to numerous scientific authorities): Chairman, Domestic Policy Committee
(signatories excerpted)
Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie
Union for Reformed Judaism

A nice observation here by Teyku blog

Stumble Upon Toolbar


What Words Offend Arabs? The Truth.

Children's Poetry Booklet Recalled After Arabs Complain
(Israeli censorship kowtows to Arabs.
When Will We Tell The Truth Without Fear)

(IsraelNN.com 7 Sivan 5768/June 10, '08) Ynet's web site and Arab complaints against a ten-year-old boy's poem about terrorists has resulted in the recall of all of the Nes Ziona municipality's children's poetry booklets.

Ynet boasts that its coverage of the poem resulted in its being recalled.

The text of the poem (Ynet's translation):

Ahmed's bunker has surprises galore: Grenades, rifles are hung on the wall. Ahmed is planning another bombing!What a bunker Ahmed has, who causes daily harm.Ahmed knows how to make a bomb. Ahmed is Ahmed, that's who he is, so don't forget to be careful of him.We get blasted while they have a blast!Ahmed and his friends could be wealthy and sunny, if only they wouldn't buy rockets with all their money.

Poetry competition director Marika Berkowitz, who published the booklet, was surprised at the protests and told Ynet: "This is the boy's creation and this is what he wanted to express. Of course there should be a limit, but I think the there is no racism here. 'Ahmed' is a general term for the enemy. These are the murmurings of an innocent child."

The Education Ministry told Ynet: "The local authority that published the booklet should have guided the students in a more correct manner through the schools. The district will investigate the issue with the local authorities."
4Torah.com Search from Pre-Approved Torah sites only
Custom Search

Twitter Updates

    follow me on Twitter